Saturday, December 8, 2007

Let Me Just Catch My Breath...

Man oh man, it has been a crazy week on the Richert Ranch. School has entered the "Crazy Christmas Craze," Dave and I are trying to prepare for our big trip to the states (only 7 more days!!), and we have been running non-stop since Thanksgiving.

Whew...I just need a minute.

Here is what has filled up our past week:

*School!! High school exams are next week and I am giving my first final exam ever. I have no idea what I am doing, but I'm slogging through. The good news is I know that I can't break the seniors and no matter what, we will all survive (please, oh please, let me survive this next week).

*Our school hosted a Christmas party for the three local orphanages this last week. There were 75-80 kids from the ages two to sixteen who came for the festivities. The NHS, helmed by their advisor extraordinaire, provided games, cotton candy, popcorn, dinner, and gifts for each kid. It was an amazing thing to be a part of and help out with. JHS and I, as their trusty advisor, were in charge of decorations. Man, those kids can think up a million and one ways to decorate with a balloon.

Overall, the students of our school worked so hard; organizing, decorating, playing, serving, and giving. It was great to see how excited they were to help and interact with kids who have such different backgrounds than the students of IA.

*The school is also planning a food drive for the janitorial staff at IA. The service workers of Ecuador do not make a lot of money, some only $1.00 to $2.00 an hour. The students of the school create gift baskets for the janitors each year for Christmas, and this year it looks like they collected close to 1,000 items.

*Spanish Lessons! Dave and I have started taking private Spanish lessons twice a week and we are loving it. I know that we have been here for quite a few months now, and I definitely know more Spanish than I did when we first got here, but we really are not in many situations where we have to use the regional language. Teaching at an English-only school, and living in a community that is highly English-friendly, we aren't often forced to use the Spanish language. So, Dave and I are being a bit more pro-active. We take lessons with a wonderful woman, named Natasha, who gives us a lot of homework, is very patient with all of our questions, and laughs at our jokes. It has been wonderful.

*Packing, or at least thinking about packing, for our upcoming trip to Idaho and California has also taken up quite a bit of time. We have lists of things we want to bring back to the states and leave there (why in the world did I think I needed three fleece jackets in 87 degree heat?), lists of things we want to pick up from the states and bring back with us, and a bag full of Ecuadorian treats we want to bring back for our loved ones. Not to mention the hundreds (and I mean hundreds) of pictures we have of Ecuador. Thank goodness for technology and digital images. At least those items are easy to pack in a CD case.

*School again--teaching five different subjects keeps me busy as can be. I keep waiting for my acclimation to the stress level. It hasn't happened yet. I did meet with my director this week about my professional goals, and I am happy to report that the meeting went well. That is at least one stress out of the way in time for the holidays. One of my goals this year was to incorporate technology beyond the usual use of publishing and presenting. Inspired by the blogging craze, I have set up blogs for my 6th, 8th, and AP Lit. classes. I have to say, it has been quite fun to see how some kids open up on our class blog when they barely speak two words in our actual class. I'm seeing a whole new side to my students!

*Socializing--the Christmas Season always brings about opportunities to socialize and party. The staff Christmas party was last night and it was so much fun! It was held at our director's beautiful home and they provided a wonderful, catered meal. The theme was Cuban, so we also had a live band that played all sorts of Cuban music. One thing I learned last night was that Ecuadorians love to dance. I couldn't get my nerve up to try a few cha-chas, but I loved watching the rest of the staff. It was a great night, the food was wonderful, the music was fabulous, and we even got great gifts in the gift exchange.

Dave and I were also invited to brunch at Guayaquil's Union Club by one of my student's parents. The Union Club is a members only joint that is in the heart of downtown. You know the type of place, men are expected to wear jackets and women aren't allowed to become members. Fancy-shmancy. It was amazing--the type of place teachers don't often dine. I had way too much silverware surrounding my plate and I had to get used to the three waiters that just stood behind our table ready to answer our every need. The dining room was on the third story of the building and looked over the Malecon; we watched all of the Saturday activity through the floor to ceiling windows. The food was wonderful, I had my new favorite meal of spaghetti and camerones, and the company was even better. We had a wonderful time and it was nice to be pampered a bit after a stressful week.

This next week is going to be a busy one as well, filled with final exams, field trips, and last minute shopping. But by the end of the week, Dave and I will be in Idaho!! I can't wait.